India is an enigmatic land of different culture and religions. It is also home to some of the ancient civilisations on earth. And not-so-ironically, it is also a place where some of old rituals took birth. While some of the religious rituals backed by logic and shastras are popular and practised across India, there remain a few which are quite unexplainable and outright bizarre. These are often practised locally and signify regional beliefs and faith. One such practise is Baby Tossing.
Dated almost 700 years back, the ritual finds it origin at Baba Umer Dargah, a Muslim shrine near Sholapur, Maharashtra. Similar custom is also known to be followed at Sri Santeswar temple near Indi in Karnataka. Since ages this ritual is practised by both Hindus and Muslims alike in different parts of both states, especially rural areas. Most children who are tossed are less than two years. It is believed that the couples who are blessed with children only after praying at the shrine of Baba Umer Dargah usually partakes in this ritual for tossing their new-born child. Ironically, such a practise doesn’t bear any local name.
The controversial ritual begins with a devotee climbing high roof-tops of the shrines with a baby in his arms. The height of the roof-tops from where the ritual is carried out may vary from 30 to 50 feet. Once the devotee reaches the top, he hands over the baby to few men waiting to carry out the task. Often these men are local priests and their disciples. The priest and other men hold the baby out over the edge of the roof. They shake and swing the baby rigorously, to supposedly ward-off any fear and evil, all the while chanting phrases to please god to bless this child. And suddenly, without any hesitation, the baby is released from the grasp of the priest. Free-falling, the baby lands on a blanket held tight by a group of 10 to 15 men at the ground. Immediately the baby is picked up and passed around for the blessing before returning to the mother. This ritual is carried out on the premise of a belief that it brings good luck, health and prosperity to the child.
So far, there haven’t been any reported incidents of accidents or mishaps. And as the case may be with most odd rituals, Baby Tossing continues to still exist in these parts of India as a result of people’s unwavered blind faith.